Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What's It Good For?

When I was a teenager and one of my favorite groups put out a new album, I would head out to the mall, get a copy of the record (I know I'm dating myself here, but yes these were the vinyl kinds that are now "retro" popular), put the album on the turntable, pull out the liner notes and start learning the lyrics to all of the songs. I would put my headphones on, or blast the music in my room and immerse myself in the sounds and the messages of the music.

Nowadays, it seems like music has to have some sort of utilitarian purpose in order for it to be worthwhile. Music, in and of itself, does not seem to have inherent value. We listen to music while we are driving in the car, working out, while we're doing our homework or having coffee with friends. It has become a "lifestyle choice" rather than simply entertainment for its own sake.

I have seen much dialogue in the Jewish world about this type of thing as well. My colleagues on the different listserves are constantly asking one another - "Do you have any good music for Sukkot?" or "What are you using for your High Holiday theme this year?" I admit that I am as guilty of this as the next person. And perhaps there are times when music rightly serves a very specific function as is the case in liturgical music.

But what I am wondering is - are there still people who enjoy stopping everything else that's going on in their lives and really focusing in on a beautiful melody or a well-crafted lyric? Or is this a symptom of something larger in our lives? Are we so busy multi-tasking that it has become difficult for us to just do one thing at a time?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you have something to add to the discussion, I invite you to visit my blog page and let me know what you think.

I hope you are all having a relaxing and thoughtful week, and I look forward to seeing you in person sometime soon...

In song,



Judy said...

Maybe it's the difference between being someone whose only job is going to school and growing up, and having more responsibilities. I don't thinking having music as a companion while doing something physical or dull degrades the listening experience. Having no music would leave us empty, so we need to grab those opportunities. Is listening to music (or singing, for that matter) any less authentic or moving if it is done while folding laundry, showering or sweeping the floor than simply sitting?
Looking forward to listening whenever and wherever,

elaine said...

Todd, I'm not sure I agree that we don't still "enjoy stopping everything else that's going on in [our] lives and really focusing in on a beautiful melody or a well-crafted lyric...." While it's true that most of us are busy and so use mundane daily tasks as opportunities to listen to music, I think that (economic constraints permitting) many, many of us are also attending concerts of all kinds; kicking back with our iPods whenever we can for no reason other than the pure pleasure of it; and buying longed-for CDs, rushing home, pulling out the liner notes, turning up the volume, and soaking up the music, the message, and the lyrics before doing *anything* else. When I discover an artist new to me whose music I love, I've been known to play a CD, or perhaps a favorite track, enough times to etch all three into my brain...and my soul. And sometimes, if I'm listening while working on something else and it's one of the "etching" ones I find I do, indeed, stop what I'm doing and just swim in the music.